Witchboard

Another fashion crime vomited up by the 80s, Witchboard is the brainchild of Kevin S. Tenney, who went on to do the similarly wacky, though better-crafted, Night of the Demons.

We begin at a party,and we get some horror right off the bat: the hair, the fringe jackets, and the dancing.

Then there’s a drunken argument in the corner about the origins of the universe, but neither Dr. Lawrence Krauss nor Dr. William Lane Craig can be found.

And you know where these seemingly intractable debates lead…fistfight? Search for common ground? No. A Ouija board. Like all psychics, we didn’t see that one coming!

One of the interlocutors (and self-described atheist) is Brandon, a pompous blowhard lawyer who drives a Beamer. He explains the etymology of the Ouija, apparently a portmanteau of French and German words for “yes.” If that were the case though, it would be pronounced “Wee-Ya.” No matter. He pulls out a board and claims he’s been communicating with the long-dead spirit of a boy, David. Partygoer Jim (Brandon’s nemesis, and a construction worker) calls bullshit.

Everything grinds to a halt at the party, because nothing is more exciting than Ouija. Linda (80s video vixen Tawny Kitaen) indulges Brandon and puts her hands on the planchette as they attempt to communicate with the Great Beyond.

Linda borrows the board and starts to become obsessed with it, and in her spare time talking to young David (who it turns out, after some fastidious research by Jim and Brandon, died in some kind of fire).

KD Lang, spirit medium

As is often the case, the spirit world is an angry place and the real world starts being affected by the otherworldly disaffection. One of Jim’s colleagues is killed by falling sheet-rock after an axe telekinetically lops off the safety supports. Petrified, they call in a psychic, who’s subsequently killed  (she didn’t see that one coming, another zing!)

Then it’s up to Brandon and Jim, once rivals for the heart of Linda, to save her from possession, or “progressive entrapment” as it’s called here, allusions to which were in The Exorcist.

Spirited stuff if you will, with unintended hilarity, crappy performances and a cool plot.

*** (out of 5)

[Check out our Really Awful Movies Podcast discussion of Witchboard]

The Kindred

Ah, another “modern Prometheus” evil experiment movie. You seldom go wrong with a lab coat and nefarious doings in a basement lab. Enter, The Kindred, a movie with dollops of backstory and erudition to spare — usually the opposite in these kinds of things, especially ones filmed on the cheap.

Dr. Amanda Hollins’ life work lurks in bubbling Florence flasks and mysterious beakers in a dark subterranean lair.After all, that’s where the very best biomedical research labs are, let’s be honest.

Dr. Hollins had a falling out with evil Dr. Lloyd (Rod Steiger) over the direction of their controversial gene-splicing research. She has moral scruples, he decidedly does not.

Hollins is not long for this earth, and issues an edict to son John to destroy the fruits of her labors before they get into the wrong hands. John and a bunch of grad student buddies head to her home and basement lab to do her bidding.

But things are never cut-and-dried. There’s a young Hollins acolyte among them, Melissa, who is keen on preserving the doc’s research for posterity.

Da-da-dum.

It’s what the group eventually find in the lab that inspired the title, The Kindred, and what adds another appendage to the Hollins family tree.

The movie’s baby bottle fetus poster is undoubtedly etched in the memories of seasoned gore hounds, even if they never got around to actually watching The Kindred (it wasn’t exactly a breakout smash in 1987).

Still, with slimy creatures, savvy, smarts, infidelity, and grave-robbing, The Kindred has the makings of a 19th century novel! (turns out Dr Lloyd is in cahoots with a body snatcher who passes him near-dead bodies).

Rod Steiger chews the scenery like nicotine gum, but regardless…it’s a fun role, and Amanda Pays (above) is dynamite as grad student/temptress Melissa.

Fans of ’50s monster movies will be delighted as there are definite nods to flicks like The Brain that Wouldn’t Die and countless others.

***1/2 (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of The Kindred on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]